TOH Reader Workshops and Man Dens
We take you inside the tricked-out lairs our superheroic TOH fans have built for themselves.
Superman needed his Fortress of Solitude—"the most glamorous hideaway in the entire universe!"
We asked This Old House readers for photos of the lairs they built for themselves. And they took us inside.
Frank Coppola claimed an empty attic to create a meeting place for his friends, a group of 12 they now call the Fortress Club. "Each member has a key to their own locker and keeps their own stash of cigars and favorite liquor," he tells us.
Coppola and helpers started the project a year ago. They began by moving all ductwork to the room's edge—behind the knee-walls—installing the subfloor, and adding skylights to brighten the space.
Pre-finished hardwood flooring—purchased on sale—an electric fireplace, plasma TV, comfortable seating, and a room wired for surround sound make the space an inviting respite from the world downstairs. Three whisper-quiet bathroom ventilation fans clear the cigar smoke. Coppola has a commercial humidor on order.
"For as long as I can remember, I've wanted a workshop to build stuff," says Jim McLoughlin. He bought plans for this 198-square-foot space online for $10. Materials ran about $1500.
Here, his projects include rowboats, outdoor bars, and the restoration of a wooden, 22-foot, 1961 sailboat named Mental Floss.
McLoughlin built the shelves and workbench from recycled materials.
"The workshop has 50 amps service with four circuits to run a table saw, router, band saw, compressed air, vac system, electric heat, A/C, cable TV, Ethernet and laptop computer, and a surround-sound stereo system hooked up to my satellite radio," he says.
Because space is limited, McLoughlin equipped larger machines with wheels for mobility. This way he can roll them into the center of the room—or even outside.
Consider yourself warned.
Mike Burcewicz gutted his basement to begin with a blank canvas. He started his man cave in August 2006 with one thing in mind—the September 2nd University of Michigan football season opener. "The basement was the only room my wife let me have total control over, but I never could have done it without her help," he says.
Because they live in a flood-prone area, they decided not to use drywall or carpet. Going for an industrial look, they purchased sheets of corrugated steel. The clearance steel was 96-inches tall, but they only needed 32-inch sheets. The solution: cut the sheets and use aluminum roof flashing on the sharp top edge.
At game time, friends gather on chairs, stools, and a couch. The prime seats are, of course, these two from an old movie theater. Burcewicz seems to have thought of everything—a stocked mini fridge and a urinal eliminate the need for trips upstairs.
"My wife and I built The Woodshed ourselves over three years," says Jack Fearneyhough. Sick of tools and supplies filling the garage, Fearneyhough's wife suggested he build a workshop.
"She had no idea how big I was thinking! Now all plans have to be submitted for her approval!" he says.
The shop's front doors, modeled after carriage doors of a friend's older home, bifold to open section by section. The shop floor height allows Fearneyhough to back his truck up to the open door for easy loading and unloading.
Fearneyhough wanted to do an open beam tongue-and-groove ceiling and chose trusses designed by Rocky Mountain Log Homes in Montana. He flew to Montana and drove the beams and T&G back to Georgia. After Fearneyhough and his wife built the nine trusses, friends came over to get them in place. A crane helped with the lifting.
A 100-year-old woodburning stove, restored by Fearneyhough, heats the 40-by-41-foot space.
The Woodshed, is named after an old friend's quotable words, "Every man needs a woodshed—a place he can escape to, relax, and enjoy. Some place built for him."
Still, Fearneyhough shares his place with others. Along with an occasional birthday party and reception, family and neighbors gather in The Woodshed every Christmas Eve.
In 2000, Kent Franks replaced an old pole barn in his backyard with a metal one. Inside the 30-by-40-foot building he carved out this 12-by-30-foot room that is his "lodge getaway."
"It has all the comforts of home—central heat and air, bathroom, and cable TV," Franks says.
The A/C ducts find support on cedar beams left over from a house project in Bastrop, Texas.
Chuck Lynch collaborates with partner Lisa Teague to renovate the 30-by-40-foot horse barn attached to their 200-year-old farmhouse. "I've gotten carried away by the concept of a hideaway, but the project has been a dream come true—plus, we really didn't want horses!" says Lynch.
On the exterior, he relocated two sets of barn doors from interior pocket-style mounts to the façade.
The project began with a desire to store tools in a climate-controlled, rust-free environment (i.e. not an uninsulated barn). It grew into the roomy space.
Lynch added a total of 41 windows and doors. Former haylofts would become an upper level equipped with a drafting table and sitting area. Lynch allotted the main level for a workshop.
The concrete floor has been stained, dyed, polished, and sealed. An iron spiral staircase salvaged from a mill in Manchester, NH leads to the upper level.
While the space is definitely transformed from horse stalls, there's still more to do. The plan: apply tinted American clay to the sheetrocked walls, install pine floor planks upstairs, and build bookcases into the loft. With plenty of room and rust-free tools it looks like Lynch has the perfect hideaway in which to complete his projects.